The 2018 NFL Draft lived up to its hype. Baker Mayfield unleashed his Heisman-winning talent after Hue Jackson’s firing, putting up MVP-caliber numbers over the back half of his premiere season as a pro. That wasn’t enough to beat out the No. 2 pick from last spring in the offensive rookie of the year voting, however. Saquon Barkley did everything but throw the ball in the Giants’ offense, gaining a league-high 2,028 yards from scrimmage. Quenton Nelson and Derwin James each capped their rookie campaigns with first-team All-Pro honors.
But not every pick was a home run. Injuries left late first-rounders Isaiah Wynn and Mike Hughes to play only six games combined due to injuries. Quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen all had their share of growing pains while making the leap from college to the pros.
One year typically isn’t enough time to judge a player’s NFL career, but it’s enough to allow some “what if?” thoughts to creep in across the league. So which of the teams across the first round would hit reset on their choices if given the chance to do it all over? And who would be left searching for replacements if their perfect picks got snapped up in the re-draft?
Here’s how that might shake out if the NFL gave its teams the chance to take what they know about 2018’s season, then time travel back to last April to do the draft all over again. For the sake of simplicity, all of 2018’s trades remain intact — which would be great news for the Colts if we re-drafted the second round as well, but they still turn out OK here.
2018 pick: Baker Mayfield, QB
Re-draft pick: Baker Mayfield, QB
Mayfield excelled once Freddie Kitchens took over the Cleveland offense. Now he gets to play catch with Odell Beckham in Year 2. He’s already the best homegrown Browns quarterback since Bernie Kosar. He’s only been playing for one season, so that is simultaneously a compliment for Mayfield and an amazing heckle on Cleveland.
2. New York Giants
2018 pick: Saquon Barkley, RB
Re-draft pick: Saquon Barkley, RB
Barkley was as good as — and possibly even better than — advertised, giving New York a boost in the running and passing games and scoring nearly 42 percent of his team’s total touchdowns last fall. Picking up a quarterback in the re-draft could help, but Eli Manning can hold on for one more year while the club addresses that need in the 2019 draft. Pairing Barkley and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins would give New York a dynamic duo around which it could build its offense.
2018 pick: Sam Darnold, QB
Re-draft pick: Sam Darnold, QB
Traded picks remain traded in the re-draft, so the Jets get No. 3 and the Colts slide back to No. 6. New York’s other team desperately needed a quarterback in 2018, and Darnold has been the best passer of the available bunch through one season. That means another year of the Jets hoping his combination of size and mechanics are enough to phase out the awful decision-making that led to 15 interceptions in 13 games last season.
4. Cleveland Browns
2018 pick: Denzel Ward, CB
Re-draft pick: Derwin James, S
Ward looked like a shutdown cover corner in his first season in the league, earning Pro Bowl honors as a rookie. But James was a first-team All-Pro who could fill the void if say, a former first-round pick who was on the roster in 2018 were traded to New York in order to bring Odell Beckham to town.
2018 pick: Bradley Chubb, EDGE
Re-draft pick: Quenton Nelson, OG
As good as Chubb was — and with 12 sacks, he was pretty dang good — John Elway can use his second chance to address a bigger weakness by upgrading an offensive line that struggled mightily after losing center Matt Paradis to injury. Nelson was a revelation for the Colts as a rookie, emerging as a first-team All-Pro by giving Andrew Luck and Marlon Mack enough space to turn the league’s 30th-ranked scoring offense into a top-five unit in 2018.
6. Indianapolis Colts
2018 pick: Quenton Nelson, OG
Re-draft pick: Bradley Chubb, EDGE
Losing Nelson hurts, but gaining Chubb helps supercharge a pass rush that rated out in the middle of the pack last year. Chubb moves from linebacker to defensive end in this exercise — just like the Colts are doing with 2019 signee Justin Houston now.
2018 pick: Josh Allen, QB
Re-draft pick: Lamar Jackson, QB
With their actual pick, the Bills selected a player whose running was significantly more NFL ready than his passing. With 2019’s re-draft, Buffalo gets a player who was a less efficient runner but a more efficient passer in his rookie year. Jackson helped push the Ravens to the postseason with a 6-2 record as a starter, though he had a more talented receiving group than Allen was saddled with in his first year in western New York.
Either would be a prudent pick for Buffalo, but Jackson gets the edge after his torrid finish to 2018 — even after a rough playoff debut.
(I look forward to the angry tweets I receive from Bills fans for this selection. If it’s any consolation, three of your rookies slid into this re-draft, which is a pretty good sign for the future.)
2018 pick: Roquan Smith, ILB
Re-draft pick: Darius Leonard, ILB
Smith was very good as a rookie, providing a sideline-to-sideline presence who could shadow tight ends, bring a little pass-rushing help, and typically tackle anything that sprinted through his field of vision. Leonard did the same, only a little bit better, en route to winning defensive rookie of the year honors.
He’s also delightful to listen to on the field:
2018 pick: Mike McGlinchey, OT
Re-draft pick: Denzel Ward, CB
The Niners needed an impact inside linebacker so badly this offseason that they gave Kwon Alexander a $54 million contract. Getting Roquan Smith would have given San Francisco a similar impact player with a higher ceiling at a fraction of the cost, but Ward — a Pro Bowler in his first season in the league — presents too much value to pass up. He’ll pair with Richard Sherman to give the 49ers one of the league’s most intimidating cornerback tandems — a duo that can take some pressure off a shaky safety rotation.
2018 pick: Josh Rosen, QB
Re-draft pick: Josh Allen, QB
Allen goes from a bad situation for a rookie quarterback to the worst possible one by sliding to the Cardinals. His ability to create plays with his legs makes Arizona significantly more watchable, at least.
11. Miami Dolphins
2018 pick: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S
Re-draft pick: Leighton Vander Esch, LB
The Dolphins need low-cost help pretty much everywhere. Re-drafting Fitzpatrick would be a hit, but so would Vander Esch. The current Cowboy would provide a valuable defensive anchor and Luke Kuechly-esque presence to help speed up the 2019 teardown new head coach Brian Flores is facing.
2018 pick: Vita Vea, DT
Re-draft pick: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S
The Bucs need defensive help across the board and Vea, who was fine in eight starts but unable to live up to his top-12 draft status, is ripe for replacement. Fitzpatrick adds a valuable versatile presence to the club’s last line of defense — though picking up Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds as rangy interior tacklers would make sense, too.
2018 pick: Daron Payne, DT
Re-draft pick: Josh Rosen, QB
Remember, teams know how 2018 will unfold before making these picks — and that means Washington knows Alex Smith is headed toward a potential career-ending injury. Rosen still has the DNA of a franchise quarterback, and getting him away from Arizona’s trainwreck and into Washington’s 10-car pileup would likely help erase the doubts created by an awful rookie campaign with the Cardinals.
2018 pick: Marcus Davenport, EDGE
Re-draft pick: Tremaine Edmunds, ILB
New Orleans traded up to select Davenport, a high-ceiling project out of UTSA last spring. He showed flashes of talent as a rookie, but a win-now defensive playmaker could have been the difference* between getting screwed in the NFC title game and a spot in Super Bowl 53.
Edmunds isn’t flashy, but he had a productive rookie year in Buffalo while showing off the coverage range over the middle (12 passes defensed, two interceptions) to help the Saints get off the field on third down.
*what also could have been the difference: reviewable pass interference non-calls.
15. Oakland Raiders
2018 pick: Kolton Miller, OT
Re-draft pick: Mike McGlinchey, OT
McGlinchey’s slide ends at pick 15, where Oakland gets a major upgrade over the inconsistent Miller. The Notre Dame product was a powerful tackle in Santa Clara, earning high marks from Pro Football Focus and creating the space that allowed three different 49ers quarterbacks to have big games. He was also a standout run blocker, creating the holes that helped Matt Breida run for 5.3 yards per touch last year. McGlinchey played right tackle as a rookie and left tackle in his senior year at Notre Dame, meaning he’s a flexible fit alongside 2019 addition Trent Brown — another guy with experience on both sides of the line.
16. Buffalo Bills
2018 pick: Tremaine Edmunds, ILB
Re-draft pick: Calvin Ridley, WR
Both Ridley and 2018 Panthers pick D.J. Moore would make sense for the playmaking-starved Bills. Buffalo gets a player who found the end zone 10 times as a rookie in the Alabama product and current Falcon. This is important, since the entire Bills roster combined for 13 receiving touchdowns in 2018.
2018 pick: Derwin James, S
Re-draft pick: Roquan Smith, LB
The Chargers lose an All-Pro safety in this simulation, but they get a linebacker who could be an All-Pro in 2019. Smith would have made sense anywhere from the eighth pick onward, but his tumble down the draft board ends in LA. His versatile playmaking gives the Chargers an extra boost as they push forward in their quest to bring Philip Rivers a Super Bowl ring.
2018 pick: Jaire Alexander, CB
Re-draft pick: Jaire Alexander, CB
Alexander was outstanding in his first year with the Packers, giving the team the building block cornerback it desperately needs. Green Bay selects him again without giving it much thought.
19. Dallas Cowboys
2018 pick: Leighton Vander Esch, LB
Re-draft pick: Daron Payne, DT
With Vander Esch gone and the rest of the top tier of linebacker help since snapped up, the Cowboys instead address their needs in the trenches by adding Payne. The 319-pound Alabama product was a stout presence in the middle of the line for Washington, playing well against the run and adding some interior pass rushing with five sacks and eight QB hits as a rookie.
20. Detroit Lions
2018 pick: Frank Ragnow, C/G
Re-draft pick: Will Hernandez, G
Ragnow overcame a slow start to put together a useful rookie campaign, but Hernandez’s mean blocking shined through in a promising debut. He helped clear a path for Barkley’s big 2018 and served as a focal point of the Giants’ offensive line rebuild last fall.
2018 pick: Billy Price, C
Re-draft pick: Braden Smith, OT
Having Smith on the roster means not having to hand Bobby Hart a three-year deal to flail like an unfurled sail against faster pass rushers.
The Bengals just signed up for 3 more years of this. First person to figure out why or have anything positive to say, let me know! https://t.co/luOhQ4HXWs— Rebecca Toback (@Rebecca_Toback) March 11, 2019
Smith, the Colts’ second-round pick last year, slid right into Indianapolis’ starting lineup and performed well in pass protection — something Andy Dalton could certainly use after missing the tail end of 2018 due to a thumb injury.
22. Tennessee Titans
2018 pick: Rashaan Evans, ILB
Re-draft pick: Harold Landry, OLB
Landry eventually went to the Titans in the second round (41st overall), and he’ll play a much bigger role in Tennessee’s deficient pass rush this upcoming season after making only three starts in 2018. Despite playing a rotational role, his 14 QB hits tied for second-most among rookies last season, making him a prime breakout candidate for 2019.
2018 pick: Isaiah Wynn, OL
Re-draft pick: Sony Michel, RB
Michel started slowly and missed some time during the regular season, but his ability to churn out yards in the postseason (336 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 4.7 yards per carry in three games) made him one of the most valuable players on the New England roster. The Patriots draft him here, eight spots ahead of where he was actually drafted, to ensure he doesn’t slip away.
24. Carolina Panthers
2018 pick: D.J. Moore, WR
Re-draft pick: D.J. Moore, WR
Cam Newton still needs targets — especially now the oft-injured Greg Olsen is trending toward a spot in the announcing booth rather than on the field. Moore gets the call from Carolina again after a solid debut — his 9.61 yards per target were tops among rookies with more than 50 targets in 2018. He also showed off his versatility with 172 rushing yards for a Panthers team intent on building one of the league’s most dynamic offenses.
25. Baltimore Ravens
2018 pick: Hayden Hurst, TE
Re-draft pick: Mark Andrews, TE
Baltimore’s third-round tight end outshined his first-round counterpart in 2018. The big Oklahoma product was a potent receiving threat last fall, giving Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson a field-stretching talent up the seam — his 16.2 yards per catch were more than any regularly targeted tight end except Tampa Bay’s O.J. Howard.
26. Atlanta Falcons
2018 pick: Calvin Ridley, WR
Re-draft pick: Marcus Davenport, DE
Ridley was a bit of a luxury pick to push alongside Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and with him already off the board the Falcons can shore up their disappointing defense.
Davenport gives Dan Quinn a high-upside project to mold while adding a little extra punch to his pass rush. He also provides an important insurance policy should Vic Beasley fail to ever return to his 2016 peak.
27. Seattle Seahawks
2018 pick: Rashaad Penny, RB
Re-draft pick: Jessie Bates, S
The Seahawks made a reach to select Penny last spring, only to have 2017 seventh-rounder Chris Carson emerge as the team’s lead back. Without a glaring need at tailback, Seattle can focus on its defensive rebuild. Bates was a rare bright spot for the Bengals in 2018, and he can serve as Earl Thomas’s successor in the Seahawks’ secondary — though those are some huge shoes to fill.
2018 pick: Terrell Edmunds, S
Re-draft pick: Justin Reid, S
The Steelers stick with a safety at No. 28, but this time it’s Reid who gets the call over an uneven Edmunds. Pittsburgh allowed passers to post a 95.2 rating against them last season— 21st-best in the NFL — a number the former Stanford product would immediately improve after breaking up 10 passes as a rookie and providing important over-the-top coverage for the Texans. He’s also capable of sidling up to the line of scrimmage and getting stops, which would make him a valuable link in the team’s chain of great defensive backs.
Inside linebacker Rashaan Evans also makes sense here given Ryan Shazier’s cloudy on-field future.
2018 pick: Taven Bryan, DT
Re-draft pick: Courtland Sutton, WR
Jacksonville needs skill players to boost one of the league’s least intimidating offenses. Sutton only caught 50 percent of his targets in his first year with a disappointing Broncos squad, but he made those touches count. He averaged nearly 17 yards per catch in 2018 and showed general manager John Elway enough to trade away a diminished Demaryius Thomas.
2018 pick: Mike Hughes, CB
Re-draft pick: James Daniels, OL
Daniels can play any position across the interior of the Vikings’ offensive line, which would buy a little extra time for Kirk Cousins as he transitions out of Washington and into the NFC North. Minnesota was 1-4 when he was sacked four or more times last fall, and the only win came over hapless Arizona. Adding Daniels, who helped Mitchell Trubisky blossom in Chicago in 2018, would give the Vikes a potent blocker who developed significantly as his rookie year wore on.
31. New England Patriots
2018 pick: Sony Michel, RB
Re-draft pick: Robert Foster, WR
The Patriots have a major need for a field-stretching deep threat who can allow Julian Edelman to thrive in his wake after losing Josh Gordon to an indefinite suspension. Chris Hogan fit that bill in 2016, but he’s been inconsistent since and is a free agent. Instead, Bill Belichick pulls another undrafted free agent away from Buffalo in Foster, who had 25 catches for 511 yards (20.4 yards per reception!) over the final seven games of 2018.
32. Baltimore Ravens
2018 pick: Lamar Jackson, QB
Re-draft pick: Frank Ragnow, C/OG
There aren’t too many great fits left at the end of the first round for the Ravens (it’s safe to say they wouldn’t have traded back into Day 1 in this scenario). Jackson is gone and there aren’t many standout pass rushers who can fill the spaces vacated by 2019’s departures of Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs, or C.J. Mosley. 2018 third-round pick Orlando Brown would be a good fit here, but instead it’s Ragnow. He underwhelmed as a rookie, but his combination of potential and versatility makes him the choice to close out the first round re-draft.
Ugh, you know what? I said all trades from 2018 stand, but since there’s no dead-set pick for the Ravens, let’s just undo that draft day trade that netted Jackson with a brand new deal that gets the Eagles back in the first round.
And now ...
32. Philadelphia Eagles
2018 pick: n/a
Re-draft pick: Phillip Lindsay, RB
The Eagles get the lead back they need in Lindsay, who went from undrafted free agent to Pro Bowler in Denver. He’ll get an immediate behind the Philly offensive line, even if he slowed considerably at the end of last season as fatigue set in and other teams began to figure him out. He’ll also add a scoring threat to a platoon that averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in 2018 — third-worst in the NFL.